Coeliac Disease Fact Sheet

Coeliac Disease

What is Coeliac Disease?

Coeliac disease is when the body’s immune system react to gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats). This reaction causes damage in the small bowel to the lining called villi. Instead of projecting up like long fingers in the bowel the villi become inflamed and flattened. These villi are responsible for nutrient absorption so when they are damaged someone with Coeliac disease can suffer from gut and malabsorption symptoms.

Who gets Coeliac Disease?

Any one from any age group can develop Coeliac disease as long as they are born with a genetic predisposition to it.


Common symptoms include:

  • Anaemia
  • Bloating and gas
  • Diarrhoea or constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Abdominal cramping
  • Weight loss or gain

How common is it?

Coeliac disease affects  about 1 in 7 Australians, although almost 80% of these remain undiagnosed.

Can it be cured?

Coeliac disease cannot be cured but if you consume a strict gluten free diet then it can be managed effectively. This type of diet allows the bowel to heal correctly so that  you can absorb nutrients more efficiently and your symptoms resolve.

What if I don’t follow a gluten free diet?

Long term consequences of not following a gluten free diet include:

  • Chronic Inflammation: This can affect the bowel as well as a number of other organs in the body
  • Small bowel damage: This can lead in deficiency in nutrients such as calcium, iron, vitamin D and vitamin B12

 Gluten Free Diet

 What is gluten?

 Gluten is a protein found in:

  • Gliadin in Wheat (includes spelt)
  • Avenin Oats
  • Hordein in Barley
  • Secalin in Rye 

What foods can I eat?

  1. Naturally gluten free foods: these include fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish , poultry and eggs, nuts and legumes, milk, fats and oils. Grains such as rice, corn and quinoa are naturally gluten free
  2. Gluten Free Products: by law foods that are labelled gluten free must contain no detectable gluten
  3. Products with the Coeliac Australia endorsement logo:


4. Products that are gluten free by ingredient: if a product contains gluten then it must declare on the ingredients panel “may contain gluten”.

If you think that you may have Coeliac Disease then please make an appointment with your doctor to discuss. If diagnosis is confirmed then an Accredited Practicing Dietitian can help teach you about gluten free diets.

Disclaimer: This information is adapted from the Better Health Channel and Coeliac Australia Websites and is no way meant as professional advice. If you have Coeliac Disease it is important to discuss with your Dietitian.












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